Lily was the oldest, the cleverest – Dad’s favourite. Emily was the youngest, the pretty one – Mum’s pet. Ella was the middle child who was always to blame.
Of course, it didn’t help that Ella wasn’t Mum’s own child. Lily wasn’t either, but somehow she wasn’t resented for it, probably because Dad wasn’t interested in hearing any complaints about his darling.
The gig had been known about for months, tickets booked after hours of phone calls. It was on the family calendar, ringed in black marker pen. West Wolf were playing – and it was rumoured that the lead singer, Danny Wolf, had just broken up with his girlfriend and was on the look out for a new “laydee”. All of the girls fancied their chances.
And then, on the day of the concert, the washing machine broke. Ella was blamed, even though you’d have thought that the fact that both Lily and Em had managed to wash their best clothes, whilst Ella’s were still waiting to go in might have hinted at a different scenario. And the blow fell.
“Right, Ella,” said Mum. “Since you’re responsible for the situation, you can do all the rest of the washing yourself. By hand, as we don’t have a machine any more.”
She hadn’t objected to the unfair accusation before, but this was too much.
“You’ve got to be joking.”
“You’re going to do it tonight, and you’re grounded until it’s finished.”
“But – West Wolf!”
“No, Ella. Washing. And it is not negotiable.”
Watching her sisters get ready for the gig that night was one of the bitterest moments of Ella’s life. She suspected, by the smug look on Emily’s face as she accented her already large eyes with make-up that she was responsible for the washing machine problem. Mum and Dad were going out, too – for a meal, and then to a boring cocktail party to do with Mum’s advertising company. When they left, Ella wasn’t sure whether to cry or throw things, but just as she had picked up the first load of clothes for washing, the doorbell rang.
“What now?” she mumbled grumpily, dropping socks and tights on her way to the door. Then, as she opened it, “Kris!”
The dark, spiky haired boy grinned at her from the doorstep.
“You coming, then?”
“Well, duh! How about West Wolf?”
Ella frowned as she let Kris in. Dad and Mum wouldn’t like her doing that, either – they disapproved of Kris because he’d left school at sixteen to work in a car factory: emphatically not the sort of friend they wanted for their daughter. Briefly, she explained about the washing, and Kris groaned in sympathy.
“Man, I know. Mums never had a washing machine – said she didn’t trust ‘em – and she always made me help. About the first thing I started doing when I moved out of home was to go to the…. laundrette,” he finished in altered tones. “Els, why don’t you just take ‘em down the laundrette?”
“Yeah – with what money? I’m skint, Kris. All my money went on the West Wolf ticket that I’m not allowed to use.”
“I’ll pay,” he offered surprisingly, and as she lifted an eyebrow he shrugged. “Well, I’ve just got a pay rise, haven’t I? I’m rolling in it, me.” He grinned broadly. “Call me your fairy godmother.”
“Oh mate, you are so on,” said Ella gratefully.
An hour later, the lot was done. The washing was folded and dry, and Ella’s dress had even been ironed.
“Come on, then,” teased Kris, waiting for her to change. “Time to get going. Probably the support band hasn’t finished playing yet.”
Laughing, she got into the passenger seat of Kris’s mini, and they sped off towards the Palace Hall and the concert. Danny Wolf had just come on stage as Ella entered, and he let out a wolf-whistle.
“Woo-hoo – who’s that sexy laydee who’s just come in? Come up here love, and dance with me!”
Blushing, Ella made her way up onto stage, where Danny proceeded to flirt outrageously with her. He called a few other girls onto stage during the evening, but returned more and more often to Ella. She saw her sisters at various points during the evening, eyes wide and mouths thin with jealousy. She caught sight of Kris a couple of times, too, who winked at her broadly and blew her a kiss.
But at 11.50pm, Ella belatedly checked her watch. Even at the best of times she had a curfew of midnight, and she was not quite sure what her parents would think of her washing solution.
“I’ve got to go,” she gasped at Danny; and leapt off the stage in a rush for the door. “Can’t stop, Kris; I’ll be late,” she yelled at him as she saw him in the crowd, but loyally he detached himself and dashed after her.
“Els, I’ll give you a lift.”
“You’re an angel.” She squeezed his hand gratefully as they ran down the road.
She got home just on midnight, and escaped punishment for tardiness – or, to her surprise, for the washing.
The next evening, the phone went just as the doorbell rang. Lily answered the phone; her Dad the door.
“Ella, it’s for you!” they both called. “It’s Danny,” added Lily in hushed tones.
Instinctively she responded to the awe in Lily’s voice and made for the phone.
“Hi gorgeous,” said Danny’s husky tones. “Fancy coming out tonight?”
Ella looked at the doorstep, where Kris was engaging her father in awkward conversation.
“Sorry, Danny,” she said, “but my fairy godmother’s just called round.”
And she put down the phone and walked over to Kris.